A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some parents and physicians concerned—and rightly so.
The statement recommends that pediatricians counsel adolescent patients on some of the most commonly used forms of “emergency contraception” in the U.S., specifically recommending that all teenagers receive counseling and advance prescriptions for use of drugs such as Plan B and Plan B One-Step.
Also referred to as the “morning-after” pill, Plan B is advertised to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex by preventing ovulation, but in some instances, the drug can potentially prevent implantation of an already-conceived embryo—effectively causing a very early abortion.
Parents have a clear interest in the medical care of their minor children, especially when those decisions are of the magnitude of a potential abortion. In fact, last year when the Department of Health and Human Services declined to allow the non-prescription sale of Plan B to minors less than 17 years of age, President Obama lauded the decision, specifically noting parents’ interest in the medical decisions of minor children.
But the AAP policy statement released this week seems unconcerned with such parental involvement. The statement encourages pediatricians to counsel “all adolescents” on the use of emergency contraception and provide advanced prescriptions for drugs like Plan B so that teens are able to take the medication “as soon as possible” after unprotected sex, seemingly limiting the chance for parents to be involved in that decision.
Instead of advocating universal counseling and advance prescription of emergency contraception to adolescents—which even the policy statement acknowledges is not proven to reduce teen pregnancy rates—the AAP and other similar organizations should be encouraging approaches that work.
Sexual risk avoidance programs, also known as abstinence-only education, have been shown to have positive influence on teens’ decisions to delay sexual initiation. Likewise, as data on Heritage’s FamilyFacts.org demonstrates, teens who regularly spend time with their parents and discuss the social and moral consequences of sexual activity are less likely to have sex.
Moreover, teen girls deserve to be informed of the serious consequences of early sexual activity. Sexually active adolescent girls are more likely to experience depression and have lower academic performance. Teen girls who begin having sex in high school tend to have more sex partners during their lifetime than women who remain abstinent until early adulthood.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the AAP’s notion that even pediatricians who have objections to drugs such as Plan B have “a duty to inform their patients about relevant, legally available treatment options to which they object and have a moral obligation to refer patients to other physicians who will provide and educate about those services.”
The right of physicians to practice according to their deeply held moral and religious beliefs, especially in cases where an abortion may occur, is widely understood in many federal laws and court decisions. Parents and physicians—indeed, all Americans—should question the motivation behind policies and statements like the AAP’s that ignore the profound influence of parental involvement in teens’ lives and sacrifice individuals’ conscience rights at the altar of a liberal sexual agenda.